Illinois Republicans push for ‘sanctuary’ for gun owners as state government considers new gun control

Democrats control the state legislature, and have pushed for tighter gun laws this year

Clark Mindock
New York
Monday 07 May 2018 20:17 BST
A gun rights demonstrator at a protest in Chicago earlier this year
A gun rights demonstrator at a protest in Chicago earlier this year (Getty)

Rural counties in Illinois are taking a page from the liberal “sanctuary cities” book in their efforts to push back against efforts in the state to enact stricter gun control legislation.

At least five counties in the state have declared themselves to be “sanctuary counties” for gun rights, in an obvious nod to American sanctuary cities that shelter undocumented immigrants in some cases from federal immigration requests.

The county resolutions — which have been introduced by Republicans — are an effort to tell the Democratic-controlled state legislature that their localities will be instructed to ignore state law if gun control is passed in Springfield.

“It’s a buzzword, a word that really gets attention. With all these sanctuary cities, we just decided to turn it around to protect our Second Amendment rights,” David Campbell, the vice chairman of the Effingham County Board, told the Associated Press.

Mr Campbell said that officials in at least 20 counties or municipalities have asked for a copy of the sanctuary resolution, and that officials in at least two other states — Oregon and Washington — have also asked for a copy.

Bryan Kibler, Effingham County’s top prosecutor who came up with the idea, said that he is simply adopting the language that is used by sanctuary cities to protect immigrants.

“We’re just stealing the language that sanctuary cities use,” he said.

The local officials say they are worried that Democrats, who control the statehouse because of the high number of Democratic districts in and around Chicago, will overpower down state politicians to enact the tougher gun laws.

Those laws have included several restrictions — including a ban on bump stocks, limitations on the size of magazines, and new age restrictions for certain weapons.

Gun rights advocates note that the efforts are simply following the playbook that politicians from outside Chicago are largely responsible for. Those politicians have succeeded in making the state of Illinois a “sanctuary state”, some have said, by drafting laws that keep local police from arresting or detaining people solely because of their immigration status.

Those measures were signed into law by Republican Governor Bruce Rauner.

“They are trying to make a point that they really resent how the city of Chicago treats the rest of the state and how they’re treated as gun owners,” Richard Pearson, the executive director of the Illinois State Rifle Association, said.

State Representative Kathleen Willis, a Democrat who has sponsored some of the gun control legislation, says that the message from Republicans that they won’t enforce laws they don’t like is dangerous.

“I don’t think you can say, ‘I don’t agree with the law so I won’t enforce it,” Ms Willis said. “I think it sends the wrong message.”

Meanwhile, supporters of the new gun rights measures say that it is not much different from the state of Illinois telling US immigration authorities that they won’t cooperate with federal immigration authorities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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